Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje in Macedonia, on August 27, 1910. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. Understanding that she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ, she left home at the age of eighteen and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. She underwent a few months' training in Dublin and returned to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun.
From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St Mary's High School in Kolkata. Moved by the suffering and poverty she saw outside the convent in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. Although she had no funds, her will power and absolute faith led her forward. Soon, she had enough volunteers and financial support from various agencies.
She started her own order 'The Missionaries of Charity' on October 7, 1950, with due permission from the Holy See. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.
Today the order comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in many countries. In 1963 both the Contemplative branch of the Sisters and the Active branch of the Brothers was founded. In 1979 the Contemplative branch of the Brothers was added, and in 1984 the Priest branch was established.
The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, and they provide effective help to the needy in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers.
The Missionaries of Charity throughout the world are aided and assisted by Co-Workers who became an official International Association on March 29, 1969. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries.
Mother Teresa's work has been recognised and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She also received the Balzan Prize (1979) and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards.
On March 13 1997, Mother Teresa stepped down as head of the order due to ill health. and Sister Nirmala was chosen to succeed her as leader of the Missionaries of Charity.
On September 5, 1997, at the age of 87, Mother Teresa passed away.